This article was written by BenitoLink intern Julia Hicks.
San Benito County nonprofits gathered on June 30 to discuss how COVID-19 has impacted them. An executive director roundtable hosted by the Community Foundation of San Benito County at Paine’s Restaurant included organizations such as San Benito County’s YMCA, Community Food Bank of San Benito County, Sun Street Centers ,United Way of San Benito County, San Juan Historical Society, Hollister Downtown Association, Community Solutions of San Benito County, Girl Scouts of Central Coast, CASA, Hollister Pregnancy Center and Emmaus House.
Many of these groups took a hard hit when businesses shut down operations to comply with the shelter-in-place order. In San Juan Bautista, media campaigns have focused on boosting businesses.
Hollister Pregnancy Center CEO Brigette Blair said the group lost many of its volunteers, although the center remains open. After canceling a major fundraiser in May, it still has an abundant supply of baby formula and is getting help from nurses at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital.
Community Solutions has remained open for anyone seeking support with domestic abuse. Covering both San Benito County and Santa Clara County, Community Solutions representative Erica Elliot said numerous restraining orders have been filed during the shelter-in-place. The group has been able to disburse $30,000 to help clients cover basic needs such as rental assistance.
Sun Street Centers, helping those struggling with substance abuse, have also remained open during the shelter in place. They will be holding an online fundraiser on July 26 where the program’s alumni will share their stories. A live auction will also take place.
Emmaus House has retained its staff and has stayed open 24/7 to support families dealing with domestic abuse or sexual assault. Executive Director Patrice Kuerschner mentioned the nonprofit is only able to house families at 50% capacity, yet it has not turned anyone down. Instead, Emmaus House has referred women and children to other local resources, ensuring that all receive the help they need. The facility has restricted children-to-children contact and doubled its cleaning protocols.
Along with Emmaus house, Court Appointed Special Advocates for children, or CASA, has changed the way it interacts with its foster children. With a new list of activities online, kids can now enjoy virtual tours of cities, including New York. Court visits are now occurring on Zoom. The organization is still gaining advocates and doing their interviews online. There will also be a live fundraiser on Oct. 3 called “Sip, Savor & Celebrate.”
CASA Executive Director Esther Curtice noted that many of the referrals her agency receives are from teachers or school faculty. Because schools are not in session, teachers are unable to physically see children who are in need of assistance. This is the main worry for programs that support children in need. Curtice also said CASA is bracing for a spike in referrals when the school year resumes. YMCA Executive Director Mayra Zendejas also said she worries how many kids her organization will see when the school year starts in August.
The roundtable also included discussion on the postponement or cancelation of major events such as the Lights On Parade and the beer and wine stroll.
The Hollister Downtown Farmers’ Market, originally postponed, has been reduced to a single block on Saturdays.
United Way’s annual Gala Fundraiser was also postponed. However, it received an emergency grant and collaborated with the Food Bank to create the Great Plates program. Vicki Fortino, executive director at United Way, enlisted support from about 75 restaurants to provide 6,500 meals for San Benito County senior citizens.
Securing funds is an ongoing struggle for the majority of these nonprofits. However, through fundraisers and community groups, they are managing to provide support for those in need.
To learn more about how to help these other nonprofits during the pandemic, contact the Community Foundation for San Benito County at https://givesanbenito.org/.
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